News

    Soldiers Seize Power in Guinea-Bissau, Disrupt Election

    A picture taken on March 19, 2012 shows residents walking by the Parliament in Bissau.
    A picture taken on March 19, 2012 shows residents walking by the Parliament in Bissau.

    Soldiers in Guinea-Bissau have seized control of the capital just hours before campaigning was set to begin for a presidential run-off election. Sources say soldiers grabbed the interim president and the frontrunner presidential candidate, though the two men's whereabouts are unknown.  Residents say a tense calm has returned to the capital.  However deep divisions within the military mean further unrest is still a possibility.

    Soldiers in Guinea-Bissau say they seized power late Thursday to prevent Angolan forces from attacking the nation's military.

    The Military Command, as the still unidentified coup leaders are calling themselves, released a written statement Friday.  In it, they said they were in possession of a "secret document" which they allege authorizes a foreign military intervention that had been signed by Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior and the interim President Raimundo Pereira.

    Soldiers attacked Gomes' house Thursday night after they reportedly took Pereira into custody.

    VOA's reporter in Bissau, Lassana Cassama, says a relative calm has returned to the capital Friday; however, soldiers are heavily deployed on the main roads downtown.  The coup has not garnered much popular support, he says, but many residents are afraid to speak publicly, or even leave their homes.

    The Military Command is calling on the population to refrain from looting, vandalism or other disruptions to public order after a night of gun and mortar fire.

    Soldiers seized TV and radio stations, Gomes' party headquarters and the downtown area. Electricity was cut, and residents, fearful of violence, huddled indoors.

    Guinea-Bissau was set to hold a presidential run-off election on April 29.

    Gomes emerged as the front-runner after the first round on March 18. He won 49 percent of the vote - just shy of the majority needed to avoid a run-off.

    The Africa director at London-based think tank Chatham House, Alex Vines, said Gomes is seen as the so-called "candidate of Angola," which has been involved in military reform efforts in Guinea-Bissau.

    "This has created problems inside Guinea-Bissau," he said.  "There have been over recent months increasingly hostile media commentary and sniping of the Angolans that they are partisan, that they are not even-handed.  That is the backstory to these allegations that the Angolans are supporting Mr. Gomes."

    Just days before the coup, Angola had announced that it was pulling out a $30-million security sector reform mission to Guinea-Bissau.

    Gomes has also pledged to overhaul the nation's large and unruly armed forces, as well as fight rampant drug trafficking on the nation's Atlantic coast.

    Vines says many in the military did not want him to win.

    "There are parts of the military that don't want reform," he said. "The reform of the Bissau military is an absolutely essential part of stabilizing the country and many have failed previously."

    Gomes was to face ex-president, Kumba Yala, in the run-off election.  However, Yala had refused to participate in the second round after alleging that the first round was rigged.

    Yala held a press conference Thursday just hours before the coup took place. He warned of "consequences" for anyone who tried to campaign.

    Yala has strong ties to the military, which is dominated by his Balanta ethnic group.  The former president had been overthrown by a coup in 2003 after just three tumultuous years in power.

    Fierce rivalries between military and political leaders in Guinea Bissau have sparked repeated coups, mutinies and assassinations, as well as a civil war in the late 1990s.  No elected president has finished his mandate since 1994.

    Former president Malam Bacai Sanha died in January following a prolonged illness after just two years in power.

    Regional bloc ECOWAS has condemned the apparent coup that comes just weeks after soldiers in Mali overthrew that country's democratically elected president.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.